The Evolution and Organization of Environmental Agencies

Dean Lueck (Indiana University)
Dominic Parker (University of Wisconsin)

Abstract: We examine public bureaucracy by studying the evolution of state wildlife agencies, from their inception in colonial game laws to their manifestation as modern hierarchical environmental agencies. We develop a model of bureaucracy that considers the problem of managing a large scale environmental asset that spans small private landholdings. We explain how the agency solves the land coordination problem necessary for conserving the asset but requires organizational incentives in order to generate positive rents from the asset. We explain some of the difficult contracting and incentive problems of public wildlife management and describe how autonomous and hierarchical agencies address these problems. The empirical analysis examines the evolution of agencies from laws and employs a panel of the fifty state wildlife agencies to assess the model’s implications. Empirical estimates show that agency budgets rise with increases in private landowner contracting costs as measured by decreases in the size of privately owned parcels in a state. Evidence also shows there are positive relationships between hierarchical organization and the proportion of budgets spent on non-game. Estimates using panel data from 1950-2008 also shows evidence that the specific form of hierarchical organization has systematically relates to agency size.